A year ago Lee and I went to the RV Dreams educational rally in Sevierville, TN and the experience changed our lives. I do not say this lightly or with hyperbole, but seriously, with a depth of feeling I wish I could express. Two things changed what was a dream into a reality. The first was Howard and Linda. A couple who in their mid forties left their successful corporate lives to go on the road. In order to really understand the courage of this decision you need to put it into context. 10 years ago the resources for full-time RVers were scant, plus the demographic of folks doing this was largely retired people. The resources we have today around finding campgrounds and learning about the lifestyle largely didn’t exist and truly I view Howard and Linda as pioneers. That’s not why they changed our lives though. Howard and Linda shared what they had learned in a way that was credible to me. I was extremely skeptical (as were many others at that first rally) but after listening to everything Howard and Linda shared, reading Howard’s blog from the beginning, looking at their budgets, and truly seeing in person they were legit, I changed my mind. I have said before that Lee would have done this no matter what, but no way would I have had the courage to take this big of a risk without meeting people who had done it before. I also was lucky enough to have dinner with Howard and Linda during a work trip and they put the majority of my fears at rest simply by telling the truth and being who they are. So several months ago when the first ever reunion rally was announced, I knew Lee and I had to be there.
The second thing the education rally gave me was the Dreamer Class of 2014. A huge group of people who are ALL on the road now (Ellen finally retired and has talked Mario into trying it for while!!) This support system of like-minded people is what has made this possible for me. I have spent hours talking to these folks about what is happening with them and since we are largely going through the same things at similar times having validation and really just knowing I am not alone has helped so much. I don’t know that I would have chickened out, but I can absolutely say my ride would have been much rougher without this support system. So I was very excited to meet up with several members of the group again in Marion at the reunion rally, and we made arrangements to all park our rigs in a line with each other so we could be together. Not that we wanted to be exclusive. To the contrary, the opportunity to meet people who had been doing this for longer at the rally was really exciting for us. Many of us are on the RV-Dreams forum (a discussion board sponsored by RV-Dreams) and it’s always cool to meet people you have been “talking to” in person. Plus finally we were going to meet up with Pam and Red. We had met them at the first rally and really enjoyed being with them, but their plans took them to Alaska and out west while we were on the east coast selling the house and generally getting situated. Since Lee’s goal was always to go out west, he would often look at their pictures and say, “Screw Red and Pam!!” He meant of course that they were in all the places we wanted to be and we had serious route envy going on.
We all came into the rally in ones and twos and it took some coordination to get us all in a line together. Friday night there was an informal bonfire and then Saturday night things really got hopping. Folks gathered at our place for a few cocktails and then we headed up to the pavilion for a yummy BBQ dinner. Because this is the first reunion rally and things are less structured than an educational rally, Howard and Linda took the opportunity to communicate to the team, but I have to admit we were a little rowdy. Linda got us through it and then we all played an ice breaker game that ended up with a huge marshmallow fight. A ton of fun and a great way to meet some other people. I sat with a woman named Char who was at the first 5 rallies Howard and Linda had ever done. This rally is their 16th by the way…quite an accomplishment. Friday night a small group of us decided to play hooky from the large group bonfire circle, and we had our own small fire down by the creek behind our campsites. I say play hooky, but I went and talked to Howard and Linda first to make sure we weren’t missing anything. Yes I was that kid in school…asking permission to play hooky!! The highlight of the evening was when David got out his guitar and played some original songs he wrote for us. My favorites were “Simplicity” and “Trippin” which are about a simpler life and the RV lifestyle. Before hitting the road, David and Sharon owned a small Bed and Breakfast called Butterfly Hollow (you really should click on the link and check it out). They rebuilt the 100 year old house using reclaimed wood from the house and barn, and turned it into a B&B. When they grew to the point they knew they would have to hire additional help they had reached a crossroads. Grow the business to support the additional labor, downsize back into a smaller business, or go on the road and sell it to someone else who would continue the business. They chose to seek the next adventure, and we have all been fascinated by their story since day one. It is a beautiful place, a dream place, and the story shows you that your dreams can change and it’s perfectly OK. Lee and I hadn’t spent much time with them and are so happy they are here so we can get to know them better in person. Facebook has allowed us to follow their travels…and since they started on the road 15 days before us we feel a particular affinity to them. Plus they are super cool people…so glad they are here.
Sunday, I took the entire day off. Kept thinking I should probably be doing something, but it’s been such a long time since I just chilled, I thought I needed it. I took a nap and everything! We did have an ice cream social in the evening which was fun although they only sent two people to work it and my project management and efficiency expert personality just couldn’t take it, so Pam and I jumped in and helped get the line moving. Once we had a system going things flowed much smoother. Afterwards we had a small bonfire with James and his wife Cindy joining our circle. James is in a position to go full-time but can’t quite get there mentally..so Kelly staged a bit of an intervention with all the FT couples going around the fire and telling him what they liked and didn’t like about the lifestyle. At first I worried that we were coming on too strong, but the next morning James came over and thanked us for talking to him. He said he may need to move up his timeline!!
Memorial Day was a very full day. There was a breakfast in the morning followed by group pictures. Then family reunion style games between 1pm and 4pm and finally a pot luck at 6pm. Lee volunteered to videotape the games for Linda and I volunteered at the pot luck table and took some stills for the video Lee is putting together. After dinner (which was awesome), we watched a memorial day tribute Linda had put together. She celebrated our veterans and asked any family members with active military personnel to stand up. We were so proud to be able to stand up for our daughter in the Air Force. Her slide show also showed Dreamer family members who had passed away and two widows of men who had died were in the room. It was a very moving tribute and I know it meant a lot to the women they left behind. For many people, fulltiming is their lifelong dream, and when it is shortened by the loss of a partner it is incredibly sad. Without exception though every single person in this situation says they loved the years they have and encourages every couple to make the most of their time together. Stories like theirs help reinforce our decision to do this.
And of course at the end it turned into a water balloon fight.
Tuesday started off to a busy start as Lee was approached by three different RVers for work on their camper. Since Tom Johnson is booked out for three weeks, many folks here had something relatively minor they wanted to take care of. Lee replaced a broken window first thing in the morning and then looked at a couple other jobs for people. It’s a nice affirmation but the RV Tech school was the way to go and although we are still a long way from getting the business totally up and running, things look very promising. I worked Tuesday and Wednesday (took vacation Thursday and Friday for whitewater rafting and hiking) and Lee was editing the video he shot Monday along with researching the RV jobs. So we were busy, but a good busy, and of course we had time at night to get together with our friends. Since we had such a good time on Cinco De Mayo we all decided Tuesday was a good party night for us. We had happy hour, then steaks for dinner, and lots of dancing. Linda and Howard came over to hang out and everyone seemed to have a really good time. One thing about the class of 2014 is is we throw one hell of a party and Tuesday is definitely our night!!
Watermelon Fruit Basket
- Watermelon (Oblong shaped) I prefer seeded but it’s your choice
- Grapes (white and purple)
- Cut top of watermelon to make edges
- Scoop/cut watermelon out and place into a bowl
- Rinse inside of watermelon husk out removing seeds
- Cut watermelon into bite size pieces
- Cut strawberries into slices
- Place watermelon in the middle
- Place a row of strawberries on each side
- Place a row of grapes on each end
- Put pineapple chunks on top and bottom edges
- Mix leftover fruit into a bowl and use to replenish husk when empty or serve separately
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